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October 2009

Famous Dancers – New Additions to the Veg History Archives 
Thanks to IVU Manager and Historian, John Davis, for the addition of two renowned dancers to the rich history collection available on the IVU website.

Isadora Duncan (1878-1927), American born but made her name in Europe, seems to have been a sometime vegetarian of one type or another:

Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) - Ukrainian born of Polish parents, but made his name in Paris, was more consistent about vegetarianism:

March 2009

A History of Vegetarianism – Written in the Late 19th Century

Here is another major addition to the history section of the IVU website. In 1883, Howard Williams published 'The Ethics of Diet', which was the first history of vegetarianism, being a collection of articles about everyone he could find from the ancient world onwards.

We now have the complete book online - from a mixture of 1883, 1887, 1896 editions:

February 2009

History Buffs, Get Ready for a Feast
IVU historian, John Davis, has put together an online library of old (with a couple more recent works) veg-related books (many from the 19th century and earlier) - complete copies, mostly courtesy of the scanning being done by Google and Microsoft.

We now have a collection of 186 old books and journals in the IVU Online Libary - these are mostly complete original books in PDF format (some of them quite large so do check the file size).

All the books are old and out of copyright - the earliest being printed in 1700, but most are from the 19th century. A few are just plain text files, and some have been converted to web pages, especially the extracts from old magazines.

If you are interest in vegetarian history, or just want to see what the old books looked like, then check out the huge range at: - all in English so far but we plan to add books in other languages soon.

The idea of putting all out of copyright books online started with Project Gutenberg some years back, now part of wikipedia - see - but that is done by volunteers with the results only in plain text files. Reading a book of several hundred pages in one long text file is not something most people find very easy.

Over the last couple of years Google ( and Microsoft have started throwing their considerable finances into this, as free public service, and are now scanning vast numbers of books from university and public libraries - and they are scanning them in the original book format, so you can have the actual book on screen. Using the 'two-up' page option allows for turning the pages in a traditional way that some people prefer to the plain text versions.

January 2009

Veg History: Percy Bysshe Shelley  Percy Bysshe Shelley
Here’s the latest update to the History pages of the IVU website.

The diary of George Bernard Shaw, October 12, 1890 records: ". . . I wrote some stuff for The Star about Salt's forthcoming lecture at the Shelley Society."

The diaries editor added an extract from four unsigned paragraphs . . . The Star, 14 October 1890:

"It is an open secret that the bulk of the members [of the Shelley Society] hold Shelley's opinions in abhorrence, and, indeed, regard the Society as a genteel conspiracy to maintain that the poet was a devout upholder of the Church of England and a strict monogamist. One of the most awful blows the society ever received was at one of its earliest public meetings [March, 1886], when Bernard Shaw, with an ingenious air of having something particularly acceptable to communicate, got up and began, 'Mr. Chairman: I am a socialist, an atheist, and a vegetarian, and therefore feel that all true Shellyans will welcome my presence here this evening.' &c. &c.

Whenever a lecture is delivered to the Society by anyone whose opinions in the least resemble Shelley's the committee invariably stays away, with the exception of William Rosetti, who never flinches from his place in the chair, the indomitable Furnivall, and Mr. Salt . . . . the mildest-mannered man that ever defied society."

Shelley's character had indeed been whitewashed, since his death in 1822 at the age of 29, by those who liked his poetry but couldn't cope with the views of Shelley himself. The problem, as his widow made clear in her posthumous publication of his poetry, is that much of it needs to be read in the context of his life, and his views, to make real sense.

The Shelley section of the IVU website has now been considerably expanded to include:

  • items about his vegetarianism, his life and philosophy (he almost became a philosopher but decided on being a poet instead)
  • a complete collection of his poetry and much of his political prose writing.
  • a large collection of articles from the time of the Shelley Society in the 1880s and 90s, mostly by Henry S. Salt, GBS's friend.


October 2008

A Bit of Veg Web History              
Vegetarianism and related trends, such as concern for our fellow animals, now abound in cyberspace. Here, courtesy of IVU (International Vegetarian Union) historian, John Davis, is a listing of some of the older veg sites in cyberspace.
photo right - from the cybercafe of the 1996 IVU World Vegetarian Congress in Johnstown, PA, USA

A brief history of vegetarianism in Crotia, including the fact that the first veg society there was formed in 1928, resides at

September 2008

Australia - Major New Addition to History Section of IVU Website 

Last year Edgar Crook, of Canberra, Australia, published his book 'Vegetarianism in Australia: 1788-1948 - a cultural history'. This is an excellent, fascinating, and very readable account of the long struggle for acceptance of vegetarianism in a country that exports huge quantities of meat.

Edgar has now revised and extended the book, bringing it right up date - and has made the entire book freely available on IVU. It is divided into 19 PDF files for ease of downloading and reading. See

We're looking forward to meeting large numbers of Australians when the IVU World Vegetarian Congress is held in Jakarta and Bali in 2010, and we will now expect them all to be well informed about their own history!

Many thanks to Edgar for this highly impressive book, and for making it free for all on IVU.

May 2008

East Meets West & West Eats Meat:  A History of Vegetarianism & Music
There has probably always been a shared sensitivity between various branches of the arts and vegetarianism. Now, a new section of the IVU website attempts to trace a history of music and vegetarianism. It just looks at professional musicians as there would be countless numbers of enthusiastic amateurs, far too many to record.

The story begins way back in 19th century Germany with some famous names, and others who will only be known to those in the profession. As the title of the webpage suggests, the Eastern influence is considerable. We try to look at how much East and West overlapped. Did they all know each other? Did vegetarian musicians prefer working together, more than with meat eaters?

This is NOT a list of whether current pop stars happen to be vegetarian this week, and just as often not next week. But if you're interested in past generations, then go to:

April 2008

IVU Past: Tasty New History Morsels on Nearing, Kahler, & McCartney 
IVU historian, John Davis, continues to update the history files on our website. Among the new materials are extracts from three books that talk about famous names in IVU history.

1. Scott and Helen Nearing

- 1883 - Scott was born, Helen was a few years younger and a life vegetarian, daughter of theosophists.
- 1970 - The Good Life was re-published, by a bigger publisher and became a best-seller
- 1982 - Scott retired from the IVU International Council after 23 years, age 99.
- 1983 - Scott died, age 100. Helen continued writing more books.
- 1995 - Helen died in a car crash, age 91.
see: - with links to Scott's talks, some extracts from The Good Life and obituaries for both.

2. Woodland Kahler - President of IVU, 1960-71

The new info online is from 'Olga - the memoirs of Olga La Marquise de St. Innocent' published in 1974. 'Woody' was Olga's 4th husband and the book gives some fascinating insights.
Olga was born into the Russian aristocracy and escaped the 1917 revolution by taking a train, with her 2nd husband, through Siberia to China, Japan and across to California - with her precious jewels sewn into a belt.

Woodland Kahler was a struggling young American writer when he met Olga in Paris in the 1930s. He became her 4th husband in 1932, and went on to become a best-selling novelist. They both turned vegetarian in 1948 and were soon involved with IVU - joining the Nearings at both the American Convention in 1949 and the IVU Congress in Sweden 1953. The Kahlers played a major role in the 1955 IVU Congress in Paris, where they were living, and he was IVU President through the 1960s.
see - with links to various articles, including some extracts from Olga's book at the top. That in turn links to more extracts about their meetings with the Dalai Lama, Albert Schweitzer etc.

3. Linda McCartney

Some extracts from a biography by Danny Fields, published in 2000, giving some insights into how she and Paul became vegetarian, and the beginnings of the food products etc.

January 2008

1975 IVU World Vegetarian Congress - Another Major Addition to the IVU Website
This report is courtesy of IVU historian John Davis.

In 1975, the first IVU World Veg Congress to be held in North America convened at the University of Maine, at Orono. American historians have stated: "Arguably it was the most important gathering of vegetarians in the United States in the twentieth century."

The Congress attracted 1,500 participants, with up to 25 simultaneous lectures, activities and tours. It is seen as having kick-started the organized vegetarian movement in North America.

A couple of months ago, I was at Parkdale (VSUK HQ) where I was given a very large, thickly-stuffed, envelope that had been found in the cellar. It was strongly bound in tape, and simply marked 'IVU Congress 1975'. It soon became apparent that this had been sealed soon after the Congress by someone who had been there in person, and left untouched for the next 32 years.

The contents included four complete original copies of Vegetarian Voice (NAVS journal), starting with Vol 1, #2 (March 1974) - up to the late 1975 issue, which was devoted entirely to reviews and photos of the Congress. There also copies of articles from other journals, such as Ahimsa (American VeganSoc), and press reports from the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. In addition, there was a large quantity of correspondence between NAVS and IVU about the planning of the event, and a couple of texts of talks that were given, including the IVU president's personal copy of his opening address.

Almost all of this is now on the IVU website at

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